When my friends and cousins from cooler cities brag about their hip bars, I am thankful I can at least whip out East Coast Road like a Patronus charm. My defence — Chennai’s, actually — against the barrage of food, beverage and entertainment options the other states offer. The approximately 800 kilometre long road runs along the azure waters of the Bay of Bengal, like a faithful aide keeping watch over its master, and connects Chennai to Kanyakumari.This is where you can roll down your window and enjoy the breeze and the view. Beat that OMR! ECR, before transforming into this diva, was an unflattering stretch that snaked its way through 150-plus villages with a herd of cows or a flock of goats often causing a traffic jam. But now in its present avatar this smooth tar road is probably tired of all the fancy sports cars and superbikes that zip through it.
With a line of swish resorts like Taj Fisherman’s Cove, InterContinental and Sheraton among others, ECR is a destination wedding hotspot. And people don’t mind wading into the waters in their Tarun Tahlianis and Sabyasachis. After all, isn’t the beach just the best prop for a shoot?
ECR also has options across budgets, interests and age groups. There are amusement parks, adventure game zones, the famed crocodile park, beach houses hosting crazy parties, plus the whole surfing culture that brings people from far- flung countries like Australia to this part of the town. To top it all, it’s dotted with quirky cafes, bars, restaurants… and the sea breeze is served, free of charge of course. So, dear cousin from South Delhi, I know who your “baap” is, but can he get you the sea breeze? I don’t think so!
— Priyadarshini Paitandy would love to chat, but she’s busy planning her next party on ECR.
Why would I want to drive a wedge between twins? Coastal twins, that is what OMR and ECR are: Organically connected and complementary even in their differences. However, twins can be peeled apart at birth and put on markedly different life trajectories and their paths may cross again in extraordinary circumstances, a scenario Indian cinema has exploited successfully. It is a scenario that partly defines the life stories of these coastal twins.
At the dawn of the millennium, the spotlight was clearly on ECR, with a newly developed turnpike raising hopes of a beach-driven culture. The advent of the IT industry caused the world to view OMR in a new light — you may even call it a fightback. Drawing upon the IT workforce, the corridor has become cosmopolitan. With its resorts et al, the high life ECR promises may be more kosher, but OMR has succeeded in giving a faint but lingering taste of a high life that can be had on the go. While the week is packed with work, there is still space for quick breaks, thanks to a mammoth food industry present in all its various facets and prices.
Some may shoot the breeze about zephyr from the sea along ECR. High-rises are possible on OMR, and residents can get the coveted breeze as well as a panasonic view, which can sometimes include the sea.
Detractors may point at the traffic and poor civic infrastructure. Nobody can paper over the civic problems on OMR, which significantly includes lack of water supply and sewage connections. But OMR is a massive project, using a term familiar to the IT crowd. And when the project is complete, OMR will be a diadem that Chennai can wear with pride.
— Prince Frederick believes OMR is a work in progress, but worth the wait.